Academic and literary circles in Kerala have resented the Kendra Sahitya Akademi language panel's reported stand against according classical status to Malayalam on the ground that it is a 'younger' language compared to Tamil and other southern languages.
Taking exception to the panel's conclusion, litterateur and linguist Dr Pudussery Ramachandran alleged that the decision was influenced more by the political agenda of some committee members rather historical and linguistic criteria.
Kerala has been pressing for classical tag for Malayalam for quite some time as it is the only south Indian language which does not have the status.
The previous Left Democratic Front government had stepped up efforts for getting Malayalam elevated to the higher rank and a scholarly panel drew up a comprehensive report citing the antiquity and tradition of the language spoken by Keralites.
Mr Ramachandran, who headed the committee, told PTI that the move to deny classical status was the result of a "conspiracy" of the so-called experts from other states.
He said the present United Democratic Front government appeared to be lacking in determination to expose and resist the vested interests who had worked to deny the honour to Malayalam.
"The report which we submitted to the Union government claiming the status, had all scientific details proving the antiquity of Malayalam," Mr Ramachandran said.
"The governments in other states had shown determination to ensure that their languages had been granted classical status, which our government is lacking in," he said.
According to reports, a meeting of the Akademi's sub-panel headed by an eminent linguist was held in Hyderabad recently and rejected granting Malayalam the classical status claim arguing that the tag was conferred only to those language which are at least 1,500-2,000 years old.
Countering this argument, Mr Ramachandran said that even the Malayalam alphabet is 1,500 years old and the language had obviously existed before the evolution of the script.
"Even the fourth-century AD Tamil work 'Tolkapiyam' has references about Malayalam. Then, how can people simply say it is not that old," he said.
Noted scholar and linguist Prof VR Prabodhachandran Nair said decisions like granting classical status were often done under political pressure and it was not a good practice.
He, however, did not agree with some other scholars that Malayalam is as old as Tamil.
"Languages should have some prescribed features to be rated under classical tag. Languages like Latin, Greek, Arabic and Sanskrit are fit to be called classic. Going by this, Malayalam cannot strictly claim to be placed on par with these languages," Mr Nair said.